Gov. Walz discusses and serves free lunches to Rochester elementary students

(ABC 6 News) – Another new law taking effect across Minnesota as the new school year begins is the free school lunch program.

“No longer are we having to differentiate have and have not,” said Governor Tim Walz who made a visit to Franklin Elementary School in Rochester on Tuesday.

Minnesota students K-12 no longer have to go hungry.

“Those who had lunch and those who didn’t. Those who got something different than someone else. We are simply treating them with the respect and dignity that each child should have,” said Gov. Walz.

Even though Rochester Public Schools (RPS) have only been back in session for about a week, superintendent Dr. Kent Pekel says the numbers add up.

“For the first time lunches are free. Last week in Rochester Public Schools our lunch consumption went up by 15 percent,” said Dr. Pekel.

Gov. Walz spent Tuesday in Rochester to highlight the passage of this bill and spent some time handing out those free lunches.

“We still have children that are food insecure, and I think showing a community that does all these things and is still concerned to the least amongst us if you will on this one making sure they are lifted up,” said Gov. Walz when asked about why he chose Rochester for his visit.

According to Gov. Walz, Minnesota is ranked fifth in the nation with the least amount of childhood poverty. He says the goal is to be number one.

“I tell people we are always improving on it. I think we’ll come back and see if there’s things that need to be worked and on things that need to implement,” said Gov. Walz.

This program will add roughly $390 million to the state’s education expenses over the next two years to help fill the gap in federal funding.